Jul 18th, 2009 by Bill
Leo 1: ‘Who do men say that I am?’
Jesus and his disciples went into the villages of Caesarea Philippi and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do men say that the son of man is?’ They said to him, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others Elijah, others, one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ!’ And he ordered them to tell no one about him. He started to teach them that the son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests and the legal experts, and be killed but after three days rise again. And he was telling them plainly. Peter drew him aside and started to take him to task, but Jesus turned, looked at his disciples, and reprimanded Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘Your thoughts are men’s thoughts, not God’s thoughts!’
He called the crowd and his disciples together and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his soul will lose it; but whoever loses his soul for my sake and the sake of the good news will save it. What benefit is it for a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? What would a man give in exchange for his soul? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the son of man will be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels.’
He said to them, ‘I’m telling you the truth: there are some people standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God come in its power.
After six day Jesus took Peter, James and John by themselves up into a high mountain, where he was transfigured before them. His clothing shone with intense whiteness, a whiteness which no bleaching agent on earth could possibly match. Elijah and Moses appeared to them, and were talking with Jesus. Peter, dreadfully frightened like the others and not knowing what to say, responded with, ‘Rabbi, it is wonderful for us to be here. Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ Then a voice issued from an overshadowing cloud, ‘This is my son, the beloved. Listen to him!’ Suddenly, looking round, they saw no one with them, only Jesus.
Story: The Eagle and the Chickens
A farmer found an eagle’s egg and put it in the nest of one of his hens. When the egg hatched, the little eagle found himself among dozens of chickens. He thought of them as his brothers and sisters, and as he grew up with them he became like them. He never learned to fly. Sometimes he would flap his wings a little, just as he saw the hens doing, but, like them, he never really got off the ground. Sometimes, in his dreams, he would seem to be a great bird, carrying off small animals in a strong beak to his nest way up at the top of a high mountain, but when he awoke he would content himself with scraps from the farmer’s table, and grubs from the ground.
One day, when he was old, an eagle flew over the farm. ‘What’s that magnificent bird?’ he asked his friend.
‘That’s an eagle, the king of the birds. It can fly as high as the sun, and the whole world is its playground. No other bird can match it for power and beauty, and grace.’
The eagle who thought he was a chicken looked longingly at the eagle in the sky. ‘How I wish I could be like that eagle! How wonderful it would be to be free like him! But I’m just a chicken, and I’ll have to live my life here on the ground, and never soar into the sky!’
So, the eagle who hatched among the chickens lived his whole life like a chicken, because that’s what he’d been told he was, and that’s what he thought he was.
Jesus said: ‘One who knows everything else, but who does not know himself, knows nothing.’ (Gospel of Thomas, saying 67).
If you were to be asked the question, ‘Who are you?’ how would you answer? No doubt you have been asked the question many times, and you have probably responded by giving your name. ‘I’m Bill Darlison,’ I’ve said on numerous such occasions. When pressed I could easily extend my answer by describing my physical features, giving my age, my address, mentioning the various roles I play in life – husband, brother, uncle, minister, etc., and then maybe talking a little bit about my interests and predilections. Does this do it? Do these few sentences give an adequate account of my identity?
Some people would say that they do. I am the sum total of the roles I play and the relationships I form. I have no identity beyond these things. There is no ‘Self’ which stands outside, no intrinsic, internal ‘I’. I am my physical actions and my brain patterns, a pretty sophisticated mechanism, no doubt, but a mechanism nevertheless.
Even those aspects of myself which I consider might tell against such a point of view – the sense that there is an interior ‘me’ which is in control, or the feeling that my mind transcends my physical self in some way – these, say certain philosophers and scientists, are just fictions. Your mind is simply a by product of your brain chemistry, your sense of self an illusion. In fact, in the words of the scientist Dean Hamer, ‘we follow the basic law of nature, which is that we’re a bunch of chemical reactions running around in a bag.’ Or, as some other anonymous writer put it, even more succinctly, ‘We are just hairy bags of chemicals.’
I have quite a collection of these scientific and philosophical assessments of the human being. I began to collect them when I spotted something written by Marcus Chown in the Guardian about a decade ago: ‘A total eclipse confronts us with a truth we would rather not face. The truth is that we live on a tiny clod of cold clay in an insignificant corner of an infinite cosmos. In the great scheme of things, our lives are of no importance whatsoever.’ Chown’s sentiments were echoed a few years later, by Jim Herrick, editor of the New Humanist magazine, who spoke of, ‘The puniness of the self in the face of the vastness of the universe.’ And George Monbiot, who writes on ecology in the Guardian, is no less stark in his assessment: ‘Darwinian evolution,’ he writes, ‘tells us that we are incipient compost: assemblages of complex molecules that – for no greater purpose than to secure sources of energy against competing claims – have developed the ability to speculate. After a few score years, the molecules disaggregate and return whence they came. Period. As a gardener and ecologist I find this oddly comforting.’
I was going to say that these viewpoints are almost exclusively male, but then, yesterday, curious as to whether Saturday’s Guardian would supply me with some material for Sunday’s sermon (as it has regularly done in the past!), I came across this little piece on the penultimate page of the Review. In a review of a new book edited by John Brockman, in which 100 eminent thinkers are asked, ‘What’s Your Dangerous Idea?’ the psychologist Susan Blackmore is quoted as saying that her dangerous idea is that even her contribution to the book is merely the result of ‘memes competing in the pointless universe’. Her idea is even considered ‘chilling’ by the book’s reviewer, P.D. Smith.
Hairy bags of chemicals. Incipient compost. Speculating complex molecules. Competing memes. Insignificant. Puny. This is who – what – you are according to these thinkers. You are a cosmic accident, a carrier of a selfish gene, which simply wants to reproduce itself. Once your reproductive life is over, you are cast aside by Nature. You have outlived your usefulness. This is the new philosophical ‘chic’. It’s tough, but, as Richard Dawkins says, ‘It’s true. So deal with it.’
I don’t know whether, as a species, we are dealing with it adequately. Perhaps we can never deal with it. What price morality when, ultimately, a human being is worthless? I’m not saying that people who hold such a point of view cannot behave ethically; this would be a terrible slur on numerous such people of high moral calibre, but I sometimes wonder whether they adhere to their high principles in spite of rather than because of their philosophical convictions, and whether people like Trotsky, who declared that we must ‘rid ourselves once and for all of the Quaker Papist babble about the sanctity of human life’, or Stalin who said, ‘One death is a tragedy, but a million deaths just a statistic,’ were not being more faithful to the contemporary scientific and philosophical ethos.
How different such points of view are from the one they are seeking to replace! The one we find in the world’s spiritual traditions, which teach us that, far from being expendable accidental products of blind natural forces, we are infinitely precious beings, ‘made in the image of God’, intrinsic parts of the whole economy of the universe. The Psalmist puts it like this:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
And the writer of Psalm 8, as perplexed by the vastness of the universe as Marcus Chown or Jim Herrick, comes to the opposite conclusion:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? And yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and crowned him with glory and honour.’
Shakespeare has Hamlet declare,
‘What a piece of work is Man! How noble in reason! How infinite in Faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action How like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!’(Although he does go on to say that we are also a ‘quintessence of dust’.)
Ralph Waldo Emerson, poet, philosopher, and one-time Unitarian minister, sums up this alternative point of view in one sentence: ‘Man is a god in ruins’, he declares.
So, you take your choice. Maybe we have to say that the conclusion we come to depends on when we ask the question – at some times we feel like gods, at others like the universe’s flotsam and jetsam. Maybe we can be intellectually convinced by the scientists, and emotionally convinced by the religionists. However we answer the question, we can’t escape it, and this time of the year is a particularly good time to ask it, because the zodiacal sign Leo, which the sun entered two weeks ago, is the sign which, to the ancient astrologers, symbolised the intrinsic identity of the human being. It’s not too difficult to see why this is appropriate: the sun, the ‘heart’ of the universe, symbolic of consciousness, is at its most powerful at this time of the year (in the northern hemisphere, of course, where this kind of thinking developed), and people born around this time do seem to display a strong sense of their own individuality and worth regardless of their philosophical convictions. Leo is the ‘aristocrat’ of the zodiac, and those in whom the principle operates most strongly like to be ‘king’ and ‘queen’ of their own circle, no matter how restricted. There is often a strong need for self display, for being ‘centre stage’, which can manifest as superiority and bossiness. The lion, ‘king of the jungle’ has been associated with this time of the year for millennia.
But that sense of pride and pre-eminence are just the psychological expressions of the essence of the sign. To the ancient astrologers Leo, whose principal star is called Regulus, the little king, was ‘the sign of divine splendour’, the sign of the sun’s greatest power, its all-consuming fire and all-illuminating light reflecting the very energy, power, and might of God. All the zodiac signs were said to be ‘ruled’ by one of the planets, some planets ruling two signs each. But only one sign is ruled by the sun: Leo.
How appropriate, then, that the Leo section of the Gospel of Mark – the section which, I am sure, the earliest Christians would have read at this time of the year – should deal with this question of identity. ‘Who do men say that the son of man is?’ asks Jesus of his apostles at Caesarea Philippi. I don’t want to go into the vexed and complicated question about Jesus’ role as Messiah. What I want to say this morning is that the term ‘son of man’, which we have learned to interpret as some kind of messianic title, really just means ‘human being’. Idiomatically, in Hebrew, ‘son of’ means ‘one who has the qualities of’, so ‘son of righteousness’ means ‘a righteous person’, and ‘son of perdition’ means ‘a rotter’. So ‘son of man’ means ‘human being’! We heard it earlier in Psalm 8: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you keep him in mind?’ ‘Man’ and ‘son of man’ are synonyms. So Jesus’ question, ‘Who do men say that the son of man is?’ is really ‘What does it mean to be a human being?’
And what is Peter’s answer? ‘You are the Christ, the son of the living God!’ The story of Jesus is not, as I keep repeating, the history of one man; it is the journey of the human soul on its way to enlightenment, and I venture to suggest that in the Christian mysteries which preceded the institutional church, this section of the Gospel was explained to initiates as meaning, ‘You, a human being, are God’s anointed one. You are God’s specially chosen one. You are a son or daughter of God’. Matthew Fox, one time Dominican priest, but now a priest of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church in America, says about this passage:
The name ‘Christ’ means ‘the anointed one’. All of us are anointed ones. We are all royal persons, creative, godly, divine, persons of beauty and of grace. We are all Cosmic Christs, ‘other Christs’. But what good is this if we do not know it? Everyone is a sun of God as well as a son or daughter of God, but very few believe it or know it.’
Put these things in modern dress. ‘What, according to contemporary thinkers, is a human being?’ Some say, ‘a cosmic accident’; others ‘a hairy bag of chemicals’; others, ‘incipient compost’. But what do you say a human being is? This is the mystic’s answer: ‘A human being is an infinitely precious child of God, an irreplaceable spark of the divine, with a glorious and eternal destiny.’ We are all eagles who think we are chickens.
The next scene of the Gospel ratifies Peter’s answer as Jesus is transfigured before them, his clothes gleaming whiter than any bleaching agent on earth could render them, or, as Matthew’s Gospel says, ‘his face shining like the sun’. This is the real nature of the human being. When we see beyond the outward appearances, beyond the status and the clothing, beyond the flesh, blood, and bone, we see a vision of an eternally precious and infinitely beautiful being, the very offspring of God. This is the deepest, most consoling spiritual truth of all. It has power to transform our lives and our attitudes like no other. The English mystic Edward Carpenter writes: ‘Once you really appropriate this truth (i.e. your identity with God), and assimilate it in the depths of your mind, a vast change (you can easily imagine) will take place within you. The whole world will be transformed, and every thought and act of which you are capable will take on a different colour and complexion.’
This is the real meaning of these strange stories, and I’m sure the earliest Christians did approach them in this way. One clue that this is so lies in the celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration. Do you know when it is? Tomorrow. August 6th, when the sun is in the very centre of Leo. Tomorrow Catholics will be proclaiming the undoubted truth that Jesus was a manifestation of God; but the higher truth is that we all are.
Leo 2: ‘If you can!’ – The Meaning of Faith
When they reached the other disciples they noticed that they were arguing with some legal experts, surrounded by a huge crowd. As soon as the crowd caught sight of Jesus they were amazed and they ran towards him and began to greet him. He said to them, ‘What are you arguing with them about?’ One of the crowd answered, ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you because he has a spirit of dumbness, and whenever it seizes him it throws him down and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth, and he’s wasting away. I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they weren’t powerful enough.’ He answered them, ‘O faithless generation! How long must I put up with you? Bring him here!’ They brought him, and when the spirit saw him it immediately threw the lad into convulsions. He fell to the ground and was rolling about, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been going on?’ He replied, ‘Since he was a little child. Many times it has thrown him into the fire and into the water in order to destroy him. If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you can! Everything is possible to someone who has faith!’ Straightaway, the boy’s father cried out, “I do have faith! Help my lack of faith!’
When Jesus noticed that a crowd was bearing upon them, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying, ‘Deaf and dumb spirit, I order you to come out of him, and never enter him again!’ With a shriek, the spirit sent the lad into terrible convulsions, and came out. The young man looked as if he was dead, but Jesus, taking him by the hand, raised him, and he stood up. When they went into a house, the disciples asked him privately, ‘Why weren’t we able to cast it out?’ He said to them, ‘Nobody can cast out this kind except by prayer.’
Story: The Doctor’s Diagnosis
A man was in bed, very sick. He had not eaten or spoken for two days, and his wife thought the end was near, so she called in the doctor.
The doctor gave the old man a very thorough physical examination. He looked at his tongue, lifted his eyelids to examine his eyes, listened to his chest through his stethoscope, tested his reflexes by hitting his knee with a little hammer, felt his pulse, looked in his ears, and took his temperature. Finally, he pulled the bed sheet over the man’s head, and pronounced, in sombre tones, ‘I’m afraid your husband has been dead for two days.’
At that moment, the old man pulled back the sheet, lifted his head slightly, and whispered anxiously, ‘No, my dear, I’m still alive!’
The man’s wife pushed his head back down again, covered him once more with the bed sheet, and snapped, ‘Be quiet! Who asked you? The doctor is an expert, he ought to know!’
If the sun and moon should doubt
They’d immediately go out. (William Blake)
Say what you like about the internet, but when you want information quickly it’s often there at your fingertips. In preparing this sermon I wanted a copy of the Penny Catechism – the little booklet that most Catholics over the age of fifty would have had to learn by heart – but it’s not readily available these days, so I put my request into Google, and within seconds – 2.4 seconds to be exact – there was the Penny Catechism up on my screen. I couldn’t have accessed it more quickly if I’d gone to my bookcase to fetch it! I was after the Catholic definition of ‘faith, which I still vaguely remember from my own hours spent with the Catechism, but which I wanted to get right. It comes early on, at question nine:
Question: ‘What is faith?’
Answer: ‘Faith is a supernatural gift of God, which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God has revealed.’
A couple of questions on it asks: ‘How are you to know what God has revealed?’ And the answer is: ‘I am to know what God has revealed by the testimony, teaching and authority of the Catholic Church.’
And then: ‘What are the chief things which God has revealed?’
Answer: ‘The chief things which God has revealed are contained in the Apostles’ Creed.’
The Apostles’ Creed follows. You probably know how it goes: ‘I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth…..’
I wanted this definition of faith because faith is a central concept of the zodiacal sign Leo which, I believe, has inspired the section of Mark’s Gospel that we are currently considering. The astrological writer Charles Carter says that, ‘If the keynote of the sign Cancer is “I fear”, the keynote of Leo is “I have faith”’. In fact, Faith is a central concept in all three of the so-called ‘Fire’ signs of the zodiac, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, and with good reason: ‘Fire’ is the Element which represents enthusiasm, energy, vigour, zest, power, individuality, all of which are bound up with what the Gospel of Mark means by faith. But there is no trace of any of these things in the Catholic Church’s definition. In the Catechism, faith is about believing certain propositions – propositions which have been ‘revealed’ to us by God and delivered to us by the authority of the Catholic Church. This is how most of us have been schooled to understand faith, and why the definition given years ago by Mark Twain that ‘faith is believing what you know isn’t true’ is not too far wide of the mark. ‘Losing’ our faith is simply ceasing to accept that these propositions have any correspondence with the truth, or any relevance to life. For many Protestants, who talk about being ‘saved by faith’, ‘faith’ means accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and trusting that he has paid the price of sin. If one firmly believes this, they say, one is ‘saved’, that is, destined for heaven. But neither the Catholic nor the Protestant definition of faith comes even close to what Jesus meant by the word. In the story of the Cure of the Deaf Boy, which we heard earlier, Jesus rebukes his apostles for their lack of faith, and the boy’s father exclaims, ‘Lord I believe, help my unbelief!’ Is Jesus telling the apostles off because they don’t believe the propositions of the Apostles’ Creed? Is the boy’s father asking for help in accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour? Hardly. A moment’s consideration will show that this cannot be the case. For Jesus, faith is not about metaphysical propositions which one has to sacrifice one’s reasoning powers in order to accept. Faith is an attitude to life, a positive attitude, grounded in a strong sense of our immense powers as human beings, which we can have – or not have – regardless of the contents of our supposed metaphysical belief system. The opposite of this kind of faith is not disbelief or doubt, both of which are perfectly reasonable intellectual responses to speculative theological statements: it is apathy, cynicism, an overwhelming sense of futility and pointlessness, a feeling of being a helpless pawn in the mindless drift of an indifferent universe. Nowhere in literature is this attitude to life more succinctly or more chillingly expressed than in Shakespeare’s Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Macbeth may well have claimed that he ‘believed’ the contents of the Apostles’ Creed, but his nihilistic observation shows that he has no faith at all. Although Macbeth’s brand of ‘faithlessness’ has been around since the dawn of time, it seems to be on the increase in our own day, fed by influential schools of thought which casually strip us of our personal autonomy, telling us we are simply objects in a world of objects, accidents of cosmology and history, our actions and our attitudes determined by circumstances beyond our control. I remember, many years ago, when I was a student in York, attending a lecture by a professor of psychology, at which we were told, quite blithely and with no sense of regret in her voice, that we were completely at the mercy of our genes and our environment, with the environment having the bigger influence. ‘There is no freedom of the will at all,’ she said.
I wondered then, and I wonder still, what such teaching does to our sense of moral responsibility, to our sense of right and wrong, virtue and vice, good and bad, honourable and despicable. Is there any room in such a system of thought for praise or blame, approval or censure? Strangely, although I have met many people who would say that they go along with such opinions, none of them has shown the slightest inclination to curb his or her tendency to criticise volubly those who have wronged them, or to heap praise on those who do them favours. Certain Marxist thinkers, who talk of human beings as pawns of history or economics, never seem tired of using the language of moral censure on people who are simply responding as psychological, sociological and economic laws dictate. Nor is such an attitude restricted to secular philosophies. Religions often preach a type of fatalism which renders us powerless in the face of some deity’s whims and diktats. So, to some Muslims, Allah has written the script and we are simply acting the parts allotted; to Christians of the Calvinist persuasion, the end of history is known in advance, and God has already separated the saved from the damned, so there’s not much point in any kind of moral striving. All of which cuts clean across that deep sense we have of ourselves as moral beings with the power of choice – however limited such a power might be. We may laugh at the woman in the story I told the children, who believed the expert rather than her experience, but how different are we? My experiences of life may teach me that I am being with some degree of moral autonomy, but the university professor tells me I don’t have any, so I must believe her. I may base my daily life on the assumption that people around me are making decisions for which they can be applauded or censured, but the intellectually respectable Mr. Grim Faced Determinist tells me that they are just acting as they must, As a consequence, faith in my own limited but real autonomy is eroded, and gradually replaced with a feeling of impotence in the face of cosmic inevitability.
In his book Man’s Search for Meaning – one of the most important spiritual books of the 20th century – psychiatrist Viktor Frankl considers the effects of such faithlessness on his fellow inmates in Auschwitz. Frankl puts it quite starkly: those without faith died first. He does not mean that those without religious belief died. Religious and non religious people suffered in the same degree. He means that those who could see no purpose in their lives died quickly. Those who could perceive no meaning in their existence, no point to their experiences, gave in most readily. Such ‘purpose’ need not involve what we might call ultimate, transcendent purpose. He isn’t talking about abstract or overarching meaning, such as might be given by certain kinds of religious conviction; he is talking about the specific meaning that life might have at any given moment. Quoting Nietzsche, he says that ‘He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how’. Faith, for Frankl, is the why of life. The why will differ with the individual, but without it we will find ourselves in despair, regardless of our level of prosperity. Many people, says Frankl, ‘have enough to live by, but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning’. Frankl’s experiences in Auschwitz taught him that human beings, far from being the playthings of circumstances, have the potential to attain and express what he calls a ‘spiritual freedom’ which cannot be taken away, and which alone can make life purposeful and meaningful. He writes:
A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of his endowment and environment – he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions…. man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.
And this is precisely the lesson of the story of the Deaf Boy in Mark’s Gospel: we are greater than we think. Jesus and his disciples have come down from the mount of Transfiguration, the mountain on which the innate divinity of the human person is graphically described. Coming down from the mountain represents coming down to earth, encountering real life once again. And what does he encounter? A man who is begging Jesus to help his troubled son. Remember the principle upon which my interpretation of all these miracle stories is based: that the physical ailments from which the gospel characters are suffering are mirrors of universal human spiritual conditions. This boy is deaf and dumb, and from birth onwards he has been thrown into the fire or into the water, unable to determine for himself the course of his existence, buffeted here and there by a force greater than himself. He has no voice, no power, no control. The boy’s father asks if Jesus can help, and Jesus replies, ‘Don’t ask what I can do, ask what you can do! Everything is possible to one who has faith!’ Or, to put it another way, ‘Everything is possible to one who accepts his own innate power as a child of God.’ And Jesus cures the lad. Jesus represents that power within each of us which enables us to transcend those confining shackles, what William Blake calls ‘mind forg’d manacles’, false ideas about our nature and our abilities which shut our ears to the call our innate divinity, and which keep our aspirations paltry, and make us slaves to fashion and circumstance. Changing our attitudes, having faith in ourselves and in all human beings, may not cure our physical ailments – to think this is, in my view, to misread the story – but it will transform our personal psychic universe, and help us to create that transfigured world for which we all long.
The Face to Faith column in yesterday’s Guardian dealt with this very theme. Its author Canon Andrew Clitherow, says that such a faith is actually a prerequisite of a genuinely mature faith in God.
However, while religion often tells you to have faith in God first and then to know your place in his scheme of things, developing a faith in human nature today actually precedes having an authentic faith in God. Then as we unearth the divine potential in cosmic existence, we can take increasing responsibility for ourselves and the universe in a creative and loving way.
One final point: ‘the divine potential in cosmic existence’, the transforming power of the Christ within, has to be discovered. The kind of demon that was afflicting the young boy – that is, the demon which convinces the individual that he or she is a plaything of circumstances – cannot be driven out, merely by wishing it away. ‘Only prayer will do it,’ says Jesus. By which he means that we must pay assiduous attention to our spiritual practice, if we are to develop the kind of faith which will transform the individual and help to transform the world.